“Prolo” is short for proliferation, because the treatment causes the proliferation (growth, formation) of new connective tissue in areas where it has become weak. It is also known as nonsurgical ligament reconstruction. Prolotherapy is primarily used to treat joint pain, and has been clinically shown to increase joint ligament strength by 30-40% in humans.
Clinical results using prolotherapy in dogs and cats appear to indicate the same response. Many elite human athletes use prolotherapy to strengthen their weak ligamentous tissues to prevent against future tears and injury.
How Does Prolotherapy Work?
Prolotherapy treats weakened or torn tendons and ligaments.
Tendons attach muscle to bone and ligaments attach bone to bone; both are important for the stability and movement of joints.
The mechanism is simple.
A proliferant (collagen producing solution) is injected into the affected ligaments or tendons, initiating localized inflammation.
The inflammation tells the body to activate the healing process, which directly stimulates the growth of new collagen. The new collagen production strengthens weak or damaged ligaments and tendons. Pain relief happens as the tendons and ligaments grow stronger, because they become more capable of supporting and maintaining normal joint stability.
Conditions that can benefit from this therapy:
- Degenerative Joint Disease
- Torn Ligaments
- Tendons and Cartilage Injury
- Medial Luxating Patella
- Back Pain
- Neck Pain
- Partially Degenerated or Herniated Inter-Vertebral Disks
Prolotherapy Benefits Dogs and Cats
Prolotherapy can be performed on both dogs and cats; it’s most commonly used in middle aged to senior dogs. Most pet parents report a 50-80% reduction in pain within the first two treatments.
Examples of patients for which prolotherapy is appropriate include but is not limited to:
- Performance animals (agility, working dogs) with ligament or tendon injuries
- Animals post-surgically with genetic orthopedic problems (hip, shoulder and elbow dysplasia) and chronic lameness and pain despite surgical correction
- Seniors with chronic arthritis or joint pain that are high anesthetic risks and have injured/torn or both cruciate ligaments; prolotherapy can protect the cruciate ligament in the non-surgical leg from rupture in cases where one ligament has already been repaired.
- Animals that are sensitive or have adverse reactions to conventional pain medications (Rimadyl, Deramaxx, etc.), or in cases where pain medication is not effective
- Animals with chronic osteoarthritis pain that involves one or more joints, often involving the front and rear legs
Prolotherapy is not a substitute for surgery and all animals are not candidates for this procedure. Each case is considered individually and an examination is required to determine if it’s an appropriate choice for your dog/cat.
Is prolotherapy safe?
Yes, when performed by a licensed veterinarian trained in prolotherapy. The procedure has been performed in people for over 35 years with no report of significant side effects. There may be some mild bruising and transient pain following the procedure. The techniques and solutions used in veterinary prolotherapy are the same as those used in human medicine.
How long does a prolotherapy treatment take to perform?
Typically, prolotherapy treatments are 20-45 minutes in duration depending on the animals condition and the number of joints being treated.
Is prolotherapy painful?
Prolotherapy treatments are mild to moderately painful, therefore, light, reversible sedation is generally used for the procedure. Some animals may experience transient pain and sore for 24-48 hours after, but it’s uncommon.
How many treatments will my animal need?
That depends on the age, size, severity of the condition and the individuals response to treatment. Most dogs require 4 treatments, 3-4 weeks apart. Larger dogs with the front and hind limbs affected will require more treatments than less severe cases.
How soon after prolotherapy can my dog exercise?
Leash walk only for 24-48 hours after prolotherapy. Many dogs will feel much better and over exercise if not restricted, which could worsen their condition. We advise against running, jumping, tug of war, up and down stairs or intense play until the entire series of injections and recovery is complete.